Yesterday marked a welcome step forward on the way to more normal lives and freedoms, with families and friends able to meet outside in a limited way. The restrictions we’ve endured over the past months have reduced circulation of the virus, hospitalisations and deaths but Covid 19 remains a threat to public health.
Sadly, even as Bristol starts to return to normal, the Government is seeking to curb our rights in other ways. That is one reason why I opposed the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill in the House of Commons and will continue to do so as it is scrutinised further in Parliament later this year.
Unfortunately, when protestors in Bristol gathered to oppose the Bill over the weekend we again saw frightening and unacceptable scenes, I’m aware that there are a number of extremely concerning images circulating on social media. As Avon and Somerset Police have led the way in the use of body worn cameras I understand all footage from the night will be viewed in order to get a clear picture of events, and identify unacceptable behaviour from whatever quarter. There are clearly serious issues around our freedoms and our policing, made much more difficult in the unusual circumstances of the pandemic and with questions over the lawfulness of protest. These issues require calm and informed reflection and investigation – and this is particularly important when there are likely to be legal proceedings. As with all serious incidents of disorder lessons must be learned and I am keen to work with local communities, the media and the police to do just that.
From today protests during the pandemic are permissible and I am hopeful that this will help reduce the tension we have seen in recent days. I expect any future protests will see the level of co-operation and trust we have become used to in Bristol between Avon and Somerset Police and organisers. Everyone should be able to exercise their democratic rights safely and peacefully.
If any constituents have been impacted by disturbances in the city centre or want to get in touch for any other reason they can of course contact me at email@example.com